1.1 Research in 2021

The researchers of Tilburg University also had a complicated year in 2021. For many, the pandemic made it difficult to conduct research. Many PhD candidates encountered delays in their research, and measures were taken in this regard (see also Section 4 National Education Program). In addition, considerable attention was devoted to the well-being of our PhD candidates and the quality of their supervision. PhD thesis supervisors and other supervisors have been creative in addressing the lack of spontaneous meetings, investigated the needs and experiences of PhD candidates, and initiated training for the supervisors of PhD candidates. For some researchers, the pandemic also presented special research opportunities and, despite the difficult circumstances, more researchers than before were successful in securing grants. Finally, 2021 was the final year in the 2018–2021 Strategic Plan, and progress was made in the field of Open Science.

Promovendimonitor (PhD candidate monitor)

Tilburg University aims to train young people to become responsible and enterprising thinking. To paint a more complete picture of the wishes and experiences of our PhD candidates, they were invited to complete a comprehensive questionnaire online. Topics addressed included well-being, training needs, supervision, support, and facilities during their doctoral studies. The overall rating that PhD candidates gave Tilburg University was 7.8 (on a scale from 1 to 10). In collaboration with the Tilburg PhD Program (TiPP) and other parties, key findings were identified and recommendations were formulated. The main areas of concern relate to welfare and social safety, progress in doctoral studies, and the courses that are offered. These issues will be addressed in 2022, through efforts including the optimization of the range of courses offered and further improvements to the support provided to PhD candidates and their supervisors. The monitor will be carried out again at the University in two years. In addition, Tilburg University is participating in the initiative to conduct such a study on a national scale.

Support for supervisors of PhD candidates

Good supervision is an essential element in the quality of doctoral studies. In 2021, four master classes were developed for supervisors of PhD candidates. The focus was on the relationship with the PhD candidate. There was considerable interest in participation in the master classes. Beginning supervisors gave the master class an average score of 7.7 (on a scale of 1 to 10), with experienced supervisors giving an average score of 7.9 (on a scale of 1 to 10). Given the positive evaluation of the pilot project, the master classes will continue in 2022.

In 2021, a meeting on the PhD system in the Netherlands was also organized for the first time for all new national and international supervisors of PhD students. This will be continued in 2022.

PhD defense ceremonies

As in 2020, the pandemic unfortunately had a major effect on the format of PhD defense ceremonies. The format was always adjusted so that all PhD defense ceremonies were able to proceed or, at the request of the PhD candidate, to be rescheduled for a later date. As a standard rule, every PhD defense ceremony is now publicly accessible by livestream.

Open Science  

In terms of Open Science, 2021 was all about securing the results from the Open Science Action Plan (2018–2021). One of the most impressive outcomes was the establishment of Open Press Tilburg University at the Tilburg University Library, which published more than 10 Open Access books (including textbooks) by Tilburg researchers in 2021. Another outcome was the establishment of Tilburg’s first Diamond Open Access Journal through Open Journals; the interdisciplinary TechReg, which has now gained a solid place in the periodical landscape, with 20 publications and inclusion in Open Journals. 

Although Tilburg University has made strides in the field of Open Access publishing, we definitely want to continue developing in this area. The Open Access fund for articles was fully utilized, resulting in more than 40 additional Open Access publications. We have also been pleased to see that many researchers have taken advantage of the green Open Access route using the Taverne provision. In 2022, we will explore how to make this route even easier. The Library has also partnered with platforms (including Open Journals and EduSources) to host and distribute Open Access periodicals and open educational resources. Members of the Open Science Community came together in several online information and discussion sessions. Topics of discussion included Open Science Rankings, open research communication, Open Science Workflows, and the creation of Open Journals. The hope is that physical meetings for knowledge exchange will soon be possible again. 

Academic integrity

In 2021, the EB appointed Jelte Wicherts as the administrative leader for academic integrity, and initial efforts were made to formulate the way in which Tilburg University wishes to promote academic integrity even further. The activities of the Academic Integrity Sounding Board included providing input on the on-site training courses that were developed this year, the document on academic integrity at Tilburg University, and the performance of the play Gewetenschap (The Conscience App). That performance was postponed to early 2022, due to the pandemic. The Online Training Research Integrity and associated test has now been successfully completed by 117 PhD researchers, and the first on-site training was held in late 2021. Several staff members participated in the workshops organized within the context of the National Survey on Research Integrity, in which Tilburg University is an active participant. In addition, several staff members and managers participated in the roundtable discussions to evaluate the implementation of the National Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, organized by the Universities of the Netherlands (UNL; formerly VSNU). Several Schools have also taken steps to encourage dialogue on academic integrity within their Schools in 2022.


Despite all the challenges, our scholars were able to realize a number of extraordinary achievements in 2021, from publishing books and articles to designing a new emoji. Together with external parties, successful collaborative relationships were established, further developed, and rewarded with grants. Due to the postponement of some application rounds (e.g., Veni at the Dutch Research Council and several European rounds), there were fewer opportunities to acquire grants. We expect to compensate for this difference in 2022. Our scholars did succeed in several Dutch Research Council programs, including three Vidi proposals and one Vici proposal, and several awards were granted to our scholars.

Research achievements

A few remarkable research achievements:

  • Publication of the European Yearbook of Constitutional Law 2020: The City in Constitutional Law by Dr T.M.C. Asserpers, co-supervised by Prof. Ernst Hirsch Ballin and Dr Gerhard van der Schyff (TLS)

  • Together with Dr Hans Rutger Bosker of the Max Planck Institute, Dr David Peeters (TSHD) published the article “Hands Speak: How Casual Gestures Shape What We Hear in Nature”

  • Dr Neil Cohn (TSHD) designed an entirely new emoji: a “melting face.” The research provided the initial impetus for a study on the origins of emoji symbolism. 

  • According to the interdisciplinary research project conducted within the framework of the HSRI by Dr Anthony Evans, Dr Christina Meyers, Dr Olga Stavrova (TSB), and others, extroverted and conscientious employees experience the most “problems” working from home.


A selection of the successful collaborative efforts:

  • The Zero Hunger Lab is part of a consortium that was awarded funding from EU Horizon 2020 for the research project ZeroW: Systemic Innovations Towards a Zero Food Waste Supply Chain.

  • Researchers from TSHD and TLS have been successful with proposals within the We Care program, a collaboration between the ETZ hospital and Tilburg University.

  • Dr Karim Schelkens (TST) is participating as the chief investigator in a consortium with Australian Catholic University and KU Leuven, which has funding to organize expert seminars and a research group.

  • Prof. Jan Fransoo (TiSEM) will advise the RIVM, relevant ministries, family physicians, and the public health services (GGD) on optimizing the logistics of COVID-19 vaccinations in the Netherlands.

  • TiSEM and the CZ insurance company have jointly established an academic knowledge institute for healthcare systems.

  • A consortium in which Dr Frans Folkvord (TSHD) is participating with 28 parties has received funding for the research program known as BEhavioral and Adherence Model for improving quality, health outcomes and cost-Effectiveness of healthcaRe research program: BEAMER.

Read the story of Hezha (photograph on the right)


Researchers received three Vidi grants and one Vici grant from the Dutch Research Council talent program:

  • Dr Sander Verhaegh (TSHD) received a Vidi grant for his research project entitled Exiled Empiricists: American Philosophy and the Great Intellectual Migration, on the development of the American intellectual climate in the years leading up to World War II.

  • Dr Martijn Boons (TiSEM) received a Vidi grant for his analysis of factors explaining variations in the returns on long-term shares and obligations. In this project, he will develop new foundations for the long-term paradigm through outcomes including the development of new tools for asset pricing.

  • Dr Kim de Roover (TSB) received a Vidi grant for her project aimed at developing new methods for bringing together groups with common latent processes in clusters.

  • Prof. Johan van Leeuwaarden (TiSEM) received a Vici grant for his project entitled Balancing Load in the “Cloud”. In the supermarket, we choose our own queue at the checkout, but who serves us in the cloud? In this project, van Leeuwaarden will develop new algorithms that will allow us to find a short row quickly in the huge data centers.

In addition, several awards were allocated:

  • Dr Alexandra Sierra (TSHD) has won the Laval Virtual Europe 2021 Award for her virtual and mixed reality project entitled Justin Beaver Stories.

  • Dr Barros Nuno Oliviera (TSB) received an award for an article he wrote in Supply Chain Management on the threat of opportunism in organizational situations.

Other successes that researchers have achieved in the field of grants from the Dutch Research Council:

  • Prof. Marc Loth and Prof. Rob van Gestel (TLS) received a Dutch Research Council Open Competition SSH for the comparative law research project entitled Supreme Courts in Quest for Legitimacy in Public Interest Cases.

  • The interdisciplinary and international research project entitled Conflict in Transformations (CONTRA), led by Dr Eva de Wolf (TLS), has received €1.5 million from the Dutch Research Council and the Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe.

  • Prof. Patrick Kenis (TiSEM) was awarded a grant within the Research Program on Revision of Supervision from the National Science Agenda for his project entitled Methods and Modalities for External and Internal Supervision of Organizational Networks Focused on Complex Societal Issues (EISON).

  • Prof. Wendy van der Valk, Prof Henk Akkermans, Prof Carol Ou (TiSEM), Prof Saskia Lavrijssen, and Prof Martijn Groenleer (TLS) received an NGinfra grant for their VIA AUGUSTA project entitled Leveraging the Potential of a System-of-Systems Approach to Infrastructure Management.

  • Dr Marco Da Rin (TiSEM) received a Comenius Senior Fellowship for his Entrepreneurial Literacy Initiative. The program requiring approximately 50 hours (2 credits) over six months will be offered as an elective.

  • The Dutch Research Council has honored two proposals for teacher PhD defense grants from TSHD for Inge Beekmans (Fontys University of Applied Sciences) and Michiel Witter (Avans University of Applied Sciences).

Finally, the Congregation Women of Bethany decided to donate a substantial amount to the Tilburg University Fund Foundation. This contribution will make Women and Theology possible, with special chair in Moral Formation.